While we wait for the Obstructionists’ ever-simmering hatred of President Bush to come to a boil over his nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, let’s hammer the last nail into the coffin of the Rove non-issue and gird up for the showdown that’s brewing:
A friend lamented the other day that the incarceration of Judith Miller has fundamentally weakened the First Amendment, specifically freedom of the press. The key part of that exchange went as follows:
Possum: “I haven't heard anything from the "amen corner" about all the recent brouhaha over the evil genius...the man they love to call "Bush's brain." Could it be that you're embarrassed by the antics of those representing your political affiliation?”
Red Liz: “No, more like I'm disgusted by all parties involved. My Side, for whining and not establishing a stronger attack....and Your Side, for treating the press like stuff you'd wipe off Lupe's backside. A strong and vital press is key in any democracy, and This Current Mess [sic] has weakened them.”
I used to pretend to be a journalist. I even studied the craft, in high school and college, and worked at it briefly and sporadically. My instructors were “old-school” types. You know, the kind who used to have a press pass stuck into the brim of their fedora hat, and carried pencils and a little wire-bound notebook for gathering facts and recording history. Although I never pursued it as a vocation, I was fortunate to have learned from those old pros how journalism used to work. My friend’s remarks, and too much coffee, prompted some thoughts about the state of journalism today:
We have strong and free news media today. To paraphrase Art Linkletter, journalists say the darnedest things! Freedom of speech, no matter how outrageous, is still alive and well. This blog is offered as Exhibit A. The "attacks" on liberal media that some folks are crying about aren't attempts to undermine freedom
of the press to say anything they want; they’re calls for a return to traditional standards of reportage. The Old Media that used to control public attitudes and popular perceptions has lost control. They know it, and they’re nearly as desperate as the Obstructionists. Blogs are part of this social phenomenon that's eroded the ability of corporate groupthink to coronate candidates. The flow of information is no longer channeled through three networks and the NY Times
, Boston Globe
, etc. Look at the duplicity of Rather and CBS in the TANG memo scandal. What "60 Minutes" did was as incompetent and partisan as any rubbish about racial superiority you'd find posted on a neo-Nazi web site. Rather & Co. wanted
it to be true, and in typical liberal fashion, they felt
that "perception is reality", and set about trying to make it so. Then they ran headlong into the real world; a place filled with intelligent, perceptive people who can smell a fake a mile away. What you want
and what you feel
doesn’t count for much in the real world; you have to deal with what is
. I shudder to think of how those phony memos would have been received by the public if there had been only Dan, Peter, and Tom to tell us what to think of the reality they permitted to filter through their red lens.
The problem with the news media is not an issue of freedom, but the fact that they've been drunk on their power for 30 years. Ever since Woodward and Bernstein brought Nixon down, news reporting has been corrupted by "gotcha" journalism, editorial advocacy in allegedly straight news reporting, and dizzying spin to further the careers of celebrity reporters. I know what you're thinking here, and you're wrong. O'Reilly and Limbaugh don't purport to be straight-up newsmen. O'Reilly calls himself an "analyst", and Limbaugh refers to himself as "an entertainer". Jon Stewart and Al Frankenstein say the same things from the Left. That's fine; it's the real freedom of the press. The First Amendment is safe...for the moment. All these pundits and personalities have the right to say whatever they want about the news story du jour
. They don't have the right to present their opinions as unbiased reportage.
If you go to your local journalism school, seek out one of the students, and ask them why they want to be a reporter, odds are you're going to hear "Because I want to change the world, and make it a better place." BUZZ! Wrong answer! We have a plethora of veteran journalists whose experience in straight news reporting gives them credentials as pundits. The job of a reporter is to report the news, not make it. Read Joe Galloway's book, We Were Soldiers Once…. And Young
, or watch the Mel Gibson movie with the abbreviated title. Galloway got involved in his story, all right, but when he was finished fighting for his life, he dropped the rifle and went right back to being a reporter.
Young reporters today, press and TV, go out and gather the facts, and I'm sure a lot of them do it without introducing their personal agenda into the process. However, they cover the stories their editors assign them, and those same editors make the decisions about how, when, and where to present those stories. A lot of those editors are liberal, and they have agendas. They also have enormous power in their control of what news is released. Responsible editors make extensive use of their research staff to verify facts, and eschew inflammatory headlines. (Reporters do not
write their own headlines!) The NY Times
used to be the "newspaper of record", but they are now as corrupt and marginalized as The Weekly World News
. ("Wayne Newton Murdered Elvis in a UFO."
) FOX News succeeds because they truly strive to be "fair and balanced"™. They don't need to spin stories, because Roger Ailes doesn't underestimate the acuity of his audience. If FOX reports a story and opens it for comment, they go out of their way to see that both sides are represented in the choice of “common taters.” That network has established a level of trust with the public, whereas CBS lost its credibility through partisan advocacy of less-than-popular causes. (Not to mention getting caught in outright lies!) The unfortunate liberal elitist attitude has long been that most people are incapable of thinking for themselves, and need someone to make decisions for them. ("We're professionals, kids! Don't try this at home!") The thought of reporting like Joe "Just the facts, ma'am" Friday never occurred to them. With the freedom of information and opinion that's come about with the advent of the Internet, people are more enabled than ever before to examine the facts, and make up their own minds about the cause, effect, and potential outcomes of any issue. Certainly there's abuse of this potential by both sides, but there are enough independent sources of information on the same story that a discerning reader can sort fact from fiction.
That's what's driving the Old Media crazy, sending them into the same hysterical frenzy as The Obstructionists. That snide remark last fall about "pajama-clad bloggers" revealed the contempt that Old Media has for truth. It was plebian bloggers who exposed the TANG scam, and that didn't fit the liberal agenda. Like The Obstructionists, the Old Media lost big last year, and they won't be happy until they have Republican blood on the floor. I don't think anything will satiate them, now. If GWB fires Rove as a sacrificial lamb, the press will howl that this is a certain indication of guilt. If he keeps Rove on, they'll still
howl that it's a sign of guilt; a cover-up being kept in-house and close to home. Kind of like Rather finally admitting the TANG memos were false, but they contained "an essence of truth". What BS! A lie is a lie is a lie! I don't want to hear moral equivalencies or factual equivocations. A thing is either true, or it's false. Just tell me that A is A, B is B, and let me decide if A+B=C. That used to be the function of the free press. Lamentably, that's no longer the case. That's
the bone the American public has to pick with the Old Media. Protecting your sources is a fine, noble thing to do. If you're a reporter, and you're going to present hearsay and innuendo as truth, you'd better be prepared to prove the veracity of your source. In the Rove matter, the facts have contravened what Cooper and Miller reported. Once again, half-witted reporting has been exposed. For Heaven's sake, it was a reporter who outed Plame to Rove! This whole thing is like the anti-Watergate! Instead of the free press attacking a secretive administration, you have an administration that ought to be putting even more heat on a secretive press. Unlike bloggers, a responsible reporter cannot present any nebulous thing they want
to be true as factual. And, as Martha Stewart so aptly demonstrated, you can't tell lies to the government. What she may or may not have done in the stock deal was insignificant; the fact that she lied to The Feebs about it was what got her hinder into Camp Cupcake for a few minutes. Ms. Miller is operating under the assumption that her glorious martyrdom in the cause of "journalistic ethics" is going to prove the veracity of her questionable assertions. Like Cooper, she should have caved dramatically at the last minute. She's taking minor heat for someone who'd be in major trouble if she gave them up. If she doesn't mind the inconvenience of a shabby uniform and bad food for a few months to protect her source, more power to her. It's not like we're breaking out the bamboo slivers and electrodes to uncover yet another liar in the DC labyrinth. When she loses the weight that starchy jailhouse food's going to put on her, and can fit into her designer clothes and go back to work, she'll still be free to print any insidious half-truths and outright lies that run through her fevered mind. In these "he said/she said" situations, it helps if there's a third party who can say "I saw..." She'll be a heroine to her peers, and still have the right to play word games like Rather about the truth inherent in lies.
Meanwhile, the usual Obstructionist suspects are lining up for the battle over Judge Roberts. The American public is not stupid, and the conduct of the Democrats during the upcoming hearings will be a defining moment for the future of their party. Judging by today’s rumblings from The Left, they know they can’t win, but like Custer at Little Big Horn, they’re going to go down shooting.